Criminal Libel Law, Partly Coming Back in Washington State in Harassment Order Cases
A new Washington statute related to protection orders, which will become effective July 1, provides:
In issuing any type of protection order, other than an extreme risk protection order, the court shall have broad discretion to grant such relief as the court deems proper, including … an order restricting the respondent from … making harassing or libelous communications about the petitioner to third parties, or making false reports to investigative agencies.
These orders are likely to become quite common, because they will be listed as a possible box to check on the standard Petition for Protection Order form (p. 5, item M). And their effect (as to the “libelous communications” part) will be basically the same as a mini-criminal-libel law, for the particular covered speakers speaking about the particular covered plaintiffs: Violating the ban on “libelous communications” would be “a gross misdemeanor.”
Moreover, the injunctions can easily be triggered simply by a judge’s finding that defendant has made two or more libelous statements about the plaintiff, entirely apart from allegations of, for instance, domestic violence or indeed any other kind of violence. Such injunctions (long-term or temporary) are authorized whenever a judge concludes, by a preponderance of the evidence, that defendant’s speech was (among other things) “unlawful harassment” or “stalking” (now renamed “cyber harassment“).
Article from Reason.com